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Fleury amusing Penguins amid flurry of shots

| Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 7:51 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury pokes the puck away from the Blue Jackets' Markus Nutivaara in the first period Tuesday, April 18, 2017, at Nationwide Arena.

Amid all of the action around the Penguins' net in their first-round series against Columbus, defenseman Brian Dumoulin listened for the goofy noises from his goaltender to find a little stress relief.

“Ask any of the defensemen: It's fun when he's getting peppered with shots,” Dumoulin said of Marc-Andre Fleury. “It definitely calms you when you're a defenseman back there in front of the net, and you hear Flower hooting and hollering after getting peppered with five or six shots.

“He loves the shots. He loves the atmosphere, and he loves kind of getting peppered so it makes you feel better when he's stopping those pucks.”

Allowing flurries of shots around Fleury is not something the Penguins wish to continue after surrendering 143 in four games. But they also place their full faith in the veteran netminder if the peppering persists.

“I think he's been good,” Sidney Crosby said. “We've got to find a way to limit their chances, odd-man rushes, things like that. We can definitely improve in that area.”

Columbus created far more high-quality looks at the net in its last two games than it did in the first two of the series. Of the Blue Jackets' 27 shots in five-on-five action that qualified as “high danger” by Corsica Hockey's definition, 11 came in Game 4, and nine happened in Game 3.

“We gave up almost double the amount of chances off the rush,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “A lot of that has to do with the decisions that we make with the puck or our lack of attention to detail as far getting on the right side of people in the 50-50 battles or in those critical areas of the rink.”

Fleury's five-on-five save percentage on 130 shots faced in the series, .917, mirrored his .917 mark in the regular season. But he found less success when confronted with those high-danger shots, as he turned away just .740 percent of the 27 that came his way in five-on-five play, according to Corsica Hockey. That sat well below his regular-season high-danger save percentage of .816.

“There were some unfortunate goals the last game, off our guys and off the boards,” Fleury said. “Just put those behind us and get ready for (Game 5).”

With no signs of a speedy injury recovery for Matt Murray, Fleury will continue to write the latest chapter in his complicated history as a playoff netminder. And unlike Murray, who earned high marks as a “calming influence,” Fleury intends to mix in a good bit of lively dialogue.

“I like to be involved and to talk to my guys,” Fleury said. “You can hear me cheering for them.

“Some (opponents) like to talk. When they talk to me, I like to answer. I don't go and chirp at them. ... (And I) always make sure I say a little thank you when (the goalposts) make a good save for me.”

Bill West is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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